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Mintek Moves Into Audio, Expands Distribution

Mintek Digital, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Chinese manufacturer, is diversifying its product selection with the launch of its first Mintek-branded microsystem and first home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) system.

The company’s Shanghai-based parent builds home and portable DVD players for several brands on an OEM basis. The factory entered the U.S. market under the Mintek name more than two years ago and sells to such accounts as the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Best Buy, the Kragen and Checker automotive chains, Pep Boys and The company recently added Costco and five May Co. chains: Famous-Barr, Filene’s, Foley’s, Hecht’s and Robinsons-May. Those chains recently returned to consumer electronics with a small assortment of small electronics products from four companies, said Mintek marketing director Bill Daugherty. The suppliers are Apple (with iPods), Canon and Casio with digital cameras, and Mintek with two portable DVD players, he said.

Mintek focused initially on the U.S. home DVD market, having offered models retailing at $49, but Mintek largely exited the business earlier this year because of low profit margins, Daugherty said. The company currently offers only one home DVD player, and it’s sold only through Mintek’s Web site,

To build its margins, Mintek entered the U.S. portable DVD market in 2002 and has since expanded its selection to six SKUs at everyday retails of $179 to $349, with 16:9 screens ranging from 5- to 8-inches diagonally, Daugherty said.

In expanding its distribution and entering new product categories, Mintek wants to create brand awareness with a name that connotes “quality at an affordable price,” he continued. The company offers co-op to retailers to promote the brand and hopes to being early next year to promote the brand itself by hiring an ad agency and public relations company, he noted. The first ads would appear in consumer buff books.

Mintek’s first HTiB, retailing at $179 to $199, is available and features single-disc DVD-receiver, five satellite speakers and a subwoofer. It plays CD-R/RW discs, MP3 CDs and Kodak Picture CDs. It offers S-video and component video outputs.

The DVD-equipped microsystem, the DMA-7510, due in October, will retail for an expected everyday $129 and features single-chassis DVD-receiver, two two-way speakers, and a subwoofer. It also plays CD-R/RW discs, MP3 CDs, and Kodak Picture CDs and offers S-video and component video outputs.

At CES, the company will enter additional product categories, Daugherty said.

New portable-DVD units include a model that’s only 0.88-inches-thick and features 7-inch 16:9 LCD screen and three-hour rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Like other Mintek portables, it plays CD-R/RW discs, MP3 CDs, jpeg and Kodak Picture CDs, and DVD-R discs. All portables come with car adapter and cables.

Besides these products, Mintek’s parent also manufactures air conditioners, a videophone and an in-dash car-DVD system in its three factories, which employ more than 8,000 people.

Other Chinese suppliers that have entered the market on a direct basis include Amoisonic of Chino, Calif., Frontier Labs of Hong Kong, Haier of New York City, and SVA of Monterey Park, Calif.